18 January 2010

what's the point?

"I might be afraid of the godless man even now," the old man went on with concentration, "only thing is, my friend Alexander Semyonovich, that I've never once met a godless man, what I've met instead is vain men—that's how they'd better be called. They're all sorts of people; there's no telling what people: big and small, stupid and learned, even some of the simplest rank, and it's all vanity. For they read and talk all their lives, filled with bookish sweetness, but they themselves dwell in perplexity and cannot resolve anything. One is all scattered, no longer noticing himself. Another has turned harder than stone, but dreams wander through his heart. Yet another is unfeeling and light-minded and only wants to laugh out his mockery. Another has merely plucked little flowers from books, and even that by his own opinion; he's all vanity himself, and there's no judgment in him. Again I'll say this: there is much boredom. A small man may be needy, have no crust, nothing to feed his little ones, sleep on prickly straw, and yet his heart is always merry and light; he sins, he's coarse, but still his heart is light. But the big man drinks too much, eats too much, sits on a heap of gold, yet there's nothing but anguish in his heart. Some have gone through all learning—and are still anguished. And my thinking is that the more one learns, the more boredom there is. Take just this: they've been teaching people ever since the world was made, but where is the good they've taught, so that the world might become the most beautiful, mirthful, and joy-filled dwelling place? And I'll say another thing: they have no seemliness, they don't even want it; they've all perished, and each one only praises his perdition, but doesn't even think of turning to the one truth; yet to live without God is nothing but torment. And it turns out that what gives light is the very thing we curse, and we don't know it ourselves. And what's the point? It's impossible for a man to exist without bowing down; such a man couldn't bear himself, and no man could. If he rejects God, he'll bow down to an idol—a wooden one, or a golden one, or a mental one. They're all idolaters, not godless, that's how they ought to be called. Well, but how could there not be godless people as well? There are such as are truly godless, only they're much more frightening than these others, because they come with God's name on their lips. I've heard of them more than once, but I've never met any. There are such, my friend, and I think there must needs be."

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Adolescent (2003: 373-4)